The Redhead Plans Ahead

My daughter has always been a planner, one of the things about her that I admire. Growing up, she was the one in her group of friends who made sure something was going on, like the summer she bought a season pass to Six Flags and convinced her friends to buy passes as well. Not only did she plan the trips to the park, but she made sure that there were days reserved for guests. I went with her as her guest several times that summer. She is also a roller coaster junkie, another thing I like about her.

Those planning skills will hopefully pay off in the months to come. Her February has been very eventful, what with a carefully orchestrated marriage proposal happening. I give the guy props, as he went all out, decorated a gazebo with flowers and rose petals, lit the path to the gazebo with luminaries. Prior to the proposal, he sent me a Facebook invite, then video chatted me using the FB app after I accepted the invite. He is a proper and polite young man, to the point of asking for my blessing before asking for her hand. I was kind to him, told him that he needs to ride some singletrack with me this summer. After all, I know the trails and there are plenty of places in the woods to bury a body (chuckle chuckle heh heh). They want to get married this summer, something that is really going to challenge her planning skills. The short time period is enough of a challenge to the preparations, a daunting task. What adds difficulty is that she is making the arrangements from another country. Both kids want to get married in the USA while they are on break from their teaching jobs in Turkey. As long as there are no complications, she will arrive her sometime around the second week of June. It looks like the date is July 26. That is not much time!

If you checked what day of the week July 26 falls on, you may be scratching your head as to why she has chosen a Monday. If money was no object for the wedding, then it would be on a Saturday. But having the wedding on a Monday saves a little over $2000 on the venue alone. There is a slim budget, as far as I know. Not only is my daughter a planner, but she also is a saver and has a decent amount of money in reserve for the wedding. However, I am a divorced man (need I say more) which means I have very little I can contribute financially to the wedding. It was a bit awkward when she messaged me and had to ask how much I thought I would be able to contribute. I know she hated asking, for one. If I had the money, I would give freely to her. As it is, I am going to put as much aside from my tax refund and give until it hurts. That was part of the awkwardness of the ask for money, at least for me. I really want to give to my children. Thankfully, she really just wanted to know how much she can budget, told me that any amount of money is fine. She knows my heart. After all, she is my daughter.

In the few weeks since the February 9th marriage proposal, she has already done a lot. The guest list is already assembled, a challenge for her due to COVID. The venue she chose limits the amount of guests to 100. Considering her mother has six sisters and I have two brothers, that pretty much means her cousins (she is close with them) and many friends will not be able to attend the ceremony and reception. I talked to her the other day, offered to rent the condominium association clubhouse for a party the Saturday before the wedding, so her friends can be a part of the wedding.

One of my assigned tasks is to taste test the possible caterers, something I am well qualified for, especially since they want BBQ for the reception. Let’s hope she doesn’t get sauce on her dress! Also, she has asked me to pick out the song for the daughter/dad dance. Her request is an Earth Wind and Fire song of my choice, since that band brings back the days of when she and I used to listen to their greatest hits album in my car on the way to/from her basketball games. She wants to choreograph a funky dance for us to do. She knows her dad is a ham, watched me act sketch comedy for years, so she wants to take advantage of that. My daughter is like me that way, so the dance should be a blast to perform.

I am trying not to think about one of the possible sour notes for the wedding — seeing my ex’s family. In the four years since the separation, I have not seen or talked to most of them. Her one sister who lives in this area has kept in touch, but I have only seen one other sister and brother-in-law in the last four years. Most may be glad to see me, but I can think of a few who could be looking for a reason to take out their angst. If it happens, I just need to be ready to walk away. This may seem unrealistic and stupid to say, but I am a little disappointed that at least some of my ex brother-in-laws haven’t talked to me since the separation. I was close with many of them. One lived with my family on two separate occasions for more than a year. I reached out to him before and after my wife and I separated. He never responded to me. He is married to the sister who is usually the most vocal and antagonistic, so that may be the reason.

That aside, there is plenty to be thankful for. I am looking forward to seeing what my daughter puts together. Judging from what I already know, it will be a fine affair.

2021 has already been eventful. I spent a few days at Disney as a guest of my girlfriend. My daughter is getting married. My son is graduating from college (yes, another expense). Who knows what else!

TYTYTYTYTYTY

Santa Claus was always very intent on teaching me manners. Each Christmas, one of my stocking stuffers was always a little box of thank you cards. The fat man must have been in cahoots with my mother, because she meticulously recorded what gifts were given to me and to my brothers. We received our presents, got enough time to play (and break) the toys we were given, then sometime during our Christmas break mom called us to the kitchen table to write out our thank you cards. For some reason, I hated the chore, maybe because I felt uncomfortable with the whole process. Why was it a gift if I had to write a thank you card for it? I mean, it was work to write those cards, then address the envelope. I said thanks in person, may have been slapped up side the head once or twice if I forgot to say it. My parents, especially my mom, taught me to be polite. It was important to them and I think it was a necessary part of their generation.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a thank you card. It’s not that I don’t express my gratitude for a gift. These days, it’s just as appropriate to say thanks in a text, maybe take it a step further and brag about it on social media, tag the gift giver and give them kudos. It’s still important to me to be grateful, to say thanks. The necessity to be polite and to properly say thanks is still imprinted on my brain.

My son texted me today, asked me for the email address of a friend of mine. I hesitated when I responded, mainly because I didn’t know why he asked for the email address. But I figured there was a good reason my son was asking. After all, he really admires this friend of mine, so much that Nate has hung out with us a few times. Jim is a director at the company I work for — the boss of my boss’s boss. Nate thinks that is pretty cool. Jim is also the person who recommended him for the internship he was hired for this summer. As it turns out, that was the reason Nate wanted Jim’s email address — he wants to write Jim a note of thanks.

My son did learn something about the importance of saying thanks, whether from me or his mother or from a class he took at school. It’s important that he did. Heyyyyyyy, maybe he will say thanks to me some day!

Ironically, my daughter also messaged me today and asked me for money. She never asks for money, but she always makes sure she says thanks. The wedding plans are in full swing now. Her boyfriend popped the question last week and she has an engagement ring on her finger. That means she needs money and she wants to know how much she can count on from her dad. Funny, I was just about to ask her if I could borrow some money. Kidding, just kidding. I’m not broke. It’s not cycling season yet.

One final thought on giving thanks. Something I learned only a few years ago, during the time of my separation and divorce, was the importance of recognizing the daily blessings in my life. When I consciously looked for blessings, I was amazed at how many go unnoticed each day. That changed my prayer life, as thanks have increasingly become a part of my prayers each day. I wake up with prayers of thanks, go to sleep at night with thanks. Funny, that was a habit both of my parents demonstrated to me, yet I don’t think that example took hold until now.

Thanks should be habitual. Thanks needs to be learned, I suppose, at least for most people.

I wonder how the land I live in, the world, would change if everyone learned the importance of giving thanks.

A Flock of Robins

We don’t get a flock of seagulls in these parts. If your mind immediately substituted seagulls for robins, like mine did, be worried. That means you think like me.

My cell phone didn’t take a good picture, but, well, these are robins. In the snow. Outside my window.

Robins are poetically considered to be a sign of Spring’s weather arriving. Perhaps that flock of robins outside my windows this morning are a bit confused. Some of the coldest weather so far this year arrived over night. It was +4 degrees when I emerged from hibernation this morning, the bright sunshine finally waking me from my cocoon of three blankets. Temperatures are predicted to dip well into the negative digits during the next few days.

Mornings like this are wonderful, the cold weather outside creating a wonderland in the bright sunshine, light magnified by the thick layer of snow. My windows face a wooded berm, a retreat for wild creatures (do squirrels count as wild creatures?) and a place the birds love to frolick. Birds frolick. I spent an hour this morning with a cup of coffee, simply watching the birds — cardinals (who seem to travel as couples), finches, orioles, and the flock of robins. It was the flock of robins that initially grabbed my attention, drew me to my peaceful time in front of the windows.

I was excited to see the robins, the little poems of robin red breast that I learned in my childhood making me think of the Spring time weather that surely must be around the corner. After a few minutes of contemplation, I did what every person does in this age of smart phones – I searched the internet for ‘are robins a sign of Spring?’.

Google can be such a kill joy.

According to the first Google entry I found, robins are not necessarily a sign of Spring’s soon arrival, although they can be. Flocks of robins may have wintered. Since the little patch of woods outside my window extends roughly 200 yards to the river and to the nearby wooded forest preserves, this flock probably has been here all winter. They just picked my piece of the wooded world as their spot this morning.

I am glad they did. As is usual, I find myself in February lamenting the tightness of my clothing, longing for the bicycle rides and exercise that comes with warm weather. That exercise always remedies the winter expansiveness. My mind needs the encouragement of the coming relief. The robins bring that reminder.

All the birds are having a great time outside my window right now. Don’t they know how cold it is? Maybe the activity is a way to keep warm.

Two squirrels just hopped by, large leaps over the snow drifts, clutching chunks of pumpkin rind that my neighbor puts out for them. I like watching the squirrels from a distance, don’t like them so much when they are on my balcony. They ravage my flowers during the Summer and Fall months. This time of year, they go crazy searching for the remnants they think they may have hidden on my balcony. One crazed varmint leapt to my living room screen door in front of me the other day, crawled up and down in an apparent rage, undaunted when I banged on the window directly in front of it. A young hawk perched on the trees in front of my window the other day, probably in search of fresh squirrel. I hope it finds a meal. There could be a few less haughty squirrels around here.

Spring may not be here soon enough. In the meantime, I guess I will set up my road bike on a trainer in front of a window, use the scene outside as motivation to prepare for the warm season to come. Gut, gut, go away, I know you will come again another day.

I will enjoy the beauty of this time while it is here. Every time of year brings the blessings of creation. I am thankful for that.

I am thankful for the poetry that Solomon graced us with and recorded in Ecclesiates 3:1-8.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

The whole third chapter is beautiful. Read it, whether you are religious or not. Pete Seeger was inspired by the words. How appropriate they are today.

Enjoy. May you contemplate the sight of a few robins today.

Shorts in a Snow Storm

Guess what. Guess Guess Guess.

My sugar momma took me to Disney. What a treat! We left early on Sunday morning as snow was falling on Chicagoland, arrived in Orlando to 80 degree weather. From Sunday through Wednesday, we enjoyed perfect Florida weather, cruised Disney in shorts and tee shirts. On Sunday afternoon, I even braved flip flops, a bit of a mistake as my feet hated me at the end of the evening. When you go to Disney, you walk and stand a whole lot.

Lisa is a Disney vet. She has a Disney time share and visits there several times a year. I had my own guide, who had an agenda to show me every possible bit of the magic kingdom she could possibly expose me to. I was thankful I listened to the little voice that told me to buy a good pair of shoes before the trip. We logged over 20,000 steps a day. Sunday was Epcot, with a nice dinner at a french restaurant in the evening. Monday morning found us in the Animal Kingdom, in line early for the Avatar ride, an awesome virtual reality experience. Just as cool as the ride was the park outside the ride. It looked like we had stepped into Pandora. A few days later, when we visited Hollywood Studios and the Star Wars section of the park, the feeling was the same. Just as Universal has created an awesome Harry Potter experience (I loved that when I took my daughter there a few years ago), Disney has done the same with Star Wars, Avatar, and Toy Story. In the Animal Kingdom, guests are greeted by the tree of life from Avatar, a very cool sight.

Of all the parks, and we went to them all, I think I enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the Animal Kingdom the best. Epcot is cool with the international feel, but Animal Kingdom just was such a pleasant place. I enjoyed the safari, an excellent representation that made me feel I was right in Africa. The Everest roller coaster was fun, especially when it reached an unexpected ending at the top, then went backwards. With the exception of Space Mountain, no ride at Disney is rough or terrifying, which I think is the goal. I am a Six Flags and Kings Island roller coaster junkie, so I know how mild the rides at Disney are. The rides at Disney are not the real magic, in my opinion. It’s the whole experience.

From Animal Kingdom, we took a bus to the Grand Floridian resort. One of the great things about Disney is the transportation system — buses, boats, monorail, and sky way. Never once during the stay was it necessary to have a rental car or to take a taxi. There is even a bus that takes everyone to/from the airport.

The Grand Floridian is beautiful and elegant. If and when I visit again, I think I want to stay there. The lobby is spectacular. The monorail or a boat is accessible right from the hotel. After our lunch there, I opted for the monorail. When I visited Disney last, which was in 1978, the monorail was a big deal. It was just as awesome last week. It zipped us quietly to the Magic Kingdom. Since we were park hopping we had to wait a few minutes to enter. We weren’t allowed to enter until 2 PM. Once inside, the magic was instantaneous. Seeing the castle and the entrance is like stepping into a fantasy. The Magic Kingdom was our first exposure to a large crowd and to lots of children. Epcot and Animal Kingdom parks were not full to capacity, with less children. We rode a Toy Story ride first, then took in the Carousel of Progress (there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow). I was eager to ride Space Mountain, begged Lisa to ride, and was thrilled to no end. It was the big ride when I went to Disney in 1978.

We rode all the rides at Magic Kingdom. I was really disappointed in the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride. We waited in line forever for a very short, very mediocre ride. I was also disappointed that there were no fireworks. There were several things that were missing or added to the experience due to the pandemic — longer lines due to social distancing, wearing a mask all day (it was strictly enforced), washing hands endlessly, hand sanitizer stations everywhere, most interactive displays and many shops/restaurants closed. It was still wonderful.

Our first full day ended with a pizza shared outside at the Boardwalk, the lights and water mesmerizing. Our whole time there was shorts and tee shirt weather, and the place is very beautiful. After our meal, we took a boat across the lake to the Beach Club resort, which is where we stayed. Our room was great, much nicer than what I am used to. We spent some time in the hot tub and pool each night we were there. The room had a nice kitchen, so we had breakfast there each morning.

Tuesday was Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios is where the Star Wars rides are at. In order to get into the Ride the Resistance ride, you have to log into the Disney app at 7 AM to try to get a spot for the ride. We didn’t make it into the queue at 7, so we tried again at 1 and got a spot at 5 PM. When we got to HS, we headed for the Slinky Dog roller coaster in the Toy Story part of the park. It ended up being our favorite ride. We rode Slinky Dog three times. We also loved the Toy Story ride, where you are catapulted through an arcade, shooting as many of the targets as possible and competing with the other person in our car. Lisa beat my score both times we rode that ride, much to my dismay. We tried to get into Tower of Terror and the Rocking Roller Coaster, but both were shut down each time we tried. Perhaps my favorite at Hollywood Studios was the Runaway Train, an awesome ride through the history of Mickey and Minnie. It’s difficult to describe how well done that ride is. We had to wait in line a long time and it was well worth it.

Ride the Resistance is a must for any Star Wars fan. I won’t ruin it for anyone, but I have to tell you that you are captured and ‘interrogated’ as members of the Resistance. It’s fun. Because you can’t enter without obtaining a place through the app, the wait is minimal. We also rode the Smuggler’s Run ride, which would have been far better had we been pilots instead of engineers. I loved the Star Wars stuff. The whole part of that park was very cool.

Wednesday was our flight back to Chicagoland. There were only 24 people on our flight back. We came back to see what was left of the mess a snow storm had left in Chicago while we were gone. It didn’t feel so bad coming back to the gloom. The warmth and magic of Disney still is surrounding me, even a week later!

It was nice to have a real, honest to goodness vacation. I walked a ton, worked a lot for my enjoyment, but it was so good!

Patriotism

Patriot – ‘a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors’

Patriotism is national pride, ‘the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political, or historical aspects’

Patriotism was not as much of a positive thing when our country was founded. Patriots, as they came to be known, were members of the 13 British colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution, supporting instead the U.S. Continental Congress. Loyalists were colonists who supported the crown/king of England. Patriots subjected Loyalists to public humiliation and violence after the war. Many Loyalists found their property vandalized, looted and burned. The patriots controlled public discourse. To be a patriot then was not what it means to be a patriot now.

I love my country, am proud of my country. I believe the United States is a symbol of strength and character, an example to the rest of the world. Like a child looks to their father, expects the best from him, I believe the world looks at my country. They expect the best from us, expect behavior that demonstrates the strength that comes from character. I believe that character should be demonstrated in many ways — compassion, honesty, fairness, loyalty, respect, morals, hard work. We are weak when we forget the importance of character.

Politics have replaced character in our country, in my opinion. It’s far too easy to point at our president as the example of the decline in character, the leader of the most powerful country in the world, a man who blatantly disrespects anyone who he views as an opponent, a selfish pig of a man who lets his own pride be his downfall. Just think of what he could have accomplished as president had he focused as hard on the character required of a president as he did on what he wanted to accomplish as president. He wanted to change things, fix things he felt a democratic presidency had screwed up, but his narcissism was the motivation. He wanted and wants to be viewed as the saviour he is not. I voted for Trump because I agreed that things needed to be changed — taxes, the federal healthcare marketplace, to name a few. Trump’s administration did resolve and began to fix those things. During the election four years ago, I winced at how Trump treated his republican opponents in the primary, was disgusted at the hate he threw at Hillary Clinton, was saddened at how he disrespected and even humiliated them. He attacked and continued to hack every political opponent from then until now. Honestly, if he had conquered himself, there is high likelihood he would have been reelected. Instead of maturing as a leader, he grew increasingly immature.

Trump was attacked as president. Democrats were just as ruthless, refused just as much to cooperate. Instead, they played political games and did everything they could to discredit and fight our president. Their character was just as reprehensive, just as foul. Because of that, our country’s character has been severely damaged by leadership that is considered more with politics than character. If that doesn’t change, and change soon, the USA will topple. If we don’t learn to quit burning those who disagree with us, don’t respect the beliefs of our fellow citizens, then we are in trouble. We will no longer have a country we can be proud of. We will no longer have a country worthy of our support. Patriotism as we know it will die.

Mister Trump, I will not miss you. Mister Biden, quit trying to win the political game and focus on bringing our country together. I didn’t see that today. Instead I heard you (and others) trying to take advantage of the situation politically, because that was what you focused on first. Stop it. Quit giving Trump and the people who follow his selfishness their day by thinking you have to fight with them. Ignore them. Do what you can to restore the character of the office you are about to accept. Bring dignity back.

I am a Christian. I am a republican. Please respect me when I disagree with you, because I will disagree with you. Don’t say I hate because I believe differently than you do. Admit it. That has been happening for years. Instead, treat me with the same respect that you expect from me. Allow me to have my own opinion. Don’t condenscend to me because of what I believe is moral or not moral. Let me object when I need to. I promise to do it with respect. I wish everyone would.

God bless the USA. God is in control. I trust that no matter what happens.

The Ride

Tags

37 months, 19 days.

It seems like so long ago, even as I look at the time elapsed and realize that it really has not been all that long. So much has changed in my life in those brief months that indeed it feels like a lifetime has passed.

I have a new job, one that I have worked for over 16 months now, a job that probably rescued me from some suffering and protected me from financial ruin. The position is a great fit for me, with a company that encourages and recognizes employees, promotes a positive culture. I was nominated by my peers recently as employee of the month, then selected for that honor by management. After working 25 years for a company that used me up, then worked five years for a company that was just as dysfunctional in it’s own unique way, I have journeyed in my work life to a place and a job that I find very satisfying. Honestly, 2020 was not much of a challenge to me, largely because I didn’t have to worry about my job, about my boss, wasn’t wearing a target on my back.

Work isn’t my life, though, even though a large amount of my time and energy goes towards my work. Looking at the changes to my employment and the relatively short amount of time that has passed since the latest changes, that too seems like another lifetime. It was, I guess. Each job I have had carries its own unique memories. Many are a capsule, a stop along the journey I am on.

And that’s really it. Life is a journey, with a beginning and a destination that I can’t quite yet see. As a bicyclist who has completed many a tour, I know that most rides seem much shorter when I break them down into segments. When I look at my life, I see those segments in my life —

*a childhood spent in several places (but mostly in the same little town)

*college in southwest Missouri, my first job as a youth minister in a small town near the Lake of the Ozarks

*a year back at home with my parents

*another job at a church in Illinois

*a job as a restaurant manager that brought me to the Chicago area and where I met up with friends who I helped start a church in Naperville (one of my favorite segments along the journey)

*marriage and that first little one bedroom apartment, and the beginning of my fascination with riding bicycles

*my first house, where my two children were born and raised. It was the longest segment of my journey so far, and the part of my journey that turned sharply uphill

*separation, then divorce after 25 years of marriage. It was during this part of my journey that I had to rely on friends and family to keep me going… just like a good bike ride.

The most recent segment was those 37 months. What an odd part of my journey it has been! The separation before the divorce, a period of 7 months, was a very dark time, a time that was painful yet also a huge relief from pain at the same time. Comparing it to a ride, it’s that point where your body starts saying no and a cramp or two comes on, but my brain knows that pushing through that pain will bring a satisfying reward. I pushed through it, tried to learn as much as I could about myself while I was doing that. It has been during this time when I have been glad that I have friends to share the journey with. I think that has been what has brought back the enjoyment of the journey. I am pretty sure those friends are going to be with me the rest of the way.

I feel like another segment of my life’s journey is just beginning. Things are changing, getting better. After making it through the hard time, climbed the tough stuff, I feel like I am recovered and looking at a smoother part of the journey. How long it is to the finish (if there is one), I don’t know. As someone who believes in God, I have to think that the hardest part of the journey is getting to what seems like the end… and then coming to the part of the ride that is an eternal tailwind (and with a new, body/bike as well).

State of Smoking Flux

Tags

, ,

Uncertainty. What needs to be done? What’s the next direction, the next action that needs to be taken? I seem to be in a constant state of flux.

State of flux seems to be the phrase the most accurately describes my life as a condo resident. I bought my condo thinking that my life was going to settle down, reduced to a life of recovering from the harsh stress of a failed marriage and the stress that went with it. My little home was going to be my place of refuge, quiet, a retreat, the place I would rest after blissful bike rides. There was promise, hope for restoration. Conflict wasn’t in my plan carrying on.

My first task after my condo became my own was to eliminate the damage to my unit that years of chain smoking by previous owners had done to the place. I spent the first few months scrubbing the walls, windows, woodwork, carpets, and the floor to ceiling mirrors in the dining room. Nicotine was caked on in many places, so thick on the dining room mirrors that I couldn’t see myself. Several coats of primer went on the walls and woodwork after the washing was complete, a necessity to seal before the new paint was applied. It took a lot of elbow grease, but I was successful in removing the smoke stench from my home.

Shortly after I moved in, the devil’s sister revealed herself. Jezebel lived under my feet for three years. As I have chronicled here, it was a bumpy ride, but I survived it. She moved away this past summer. 2020 wasn’t terrible to me. I have reason to celebrate.

I stubbornly pursued my condo’s property management recently to get a garbage issue resolved. I had to fight a bit to get it done, but it was accomplished. The conflict was not fun, but was unfortunately necessary.

Sigh. I have another condo related issue to tackle now. My new downstairs neighbor is a great guy, laid back as can be, good to talk to. Todd is a semi-retired air traffic controller who now works as a training consultant, from home. If it was not for one thing, I would barely know that he is home. That one thing is the problem. Todd is a chain smoker. Judging from the empty cigarette cartons in his recycling bin each week, he smokes a great deal of very cheap cigarettes called American Spirit. Cigarette smoke smells nasty, and this brand smells especially rancid.

My home reeks of cigarette smoke. The smoke from my neighbor’s cigarettes somehow makes it way up the walls into my unit. It’s very bad, so bad during the day that my eyes burn and I occasionally gag. At times, including today, the fug has been dense enough to cause me to be woozy. As I write, I can feel myself getting dizzy again.

I don’t know what to do. The obvious action to take is to talk to my neighbor about it, something I dread doing. It’s the right thing to do and it may help, but I haven’t worked up the courage to knock on his door. He asked me about his smoking when he first moved in, but I was so relieved to finally to be rid of the devil’s sister that I didn’t want to risk rocking the boat with my new neighbor. I let it pass. I wish I hadn’t.

I have talked to a condo association board member about it. She was sympathetic, but not really enough to want to do anything about it. It’s a tricky issue for a condo association, I know. I may revisit it with her, though. Even if I talk to my neighbor about it, I doubt it will stop the smoking. He will care, but he’s an addict. What I fear is that I may have to put up a fight, try to convince the condo association to establish a smoke free policy, either as an amendment to the condo declaration or bylaws, or as a change to the association rules or regulations. It’s not likely a fight I will win. I’m not sure I want to get into another situation that involves conflict. I’m researching, finding some helpful suggestions and articles on the internet, but, well, none say it will be easy influencing a condo association to take action. They are afraid of the risks and already have enough conflict to deal with as it is.

So here I sit in someone else’s stench. Woe is me.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Children and Comfort Zones

I hit the sheets early last night, my body battery a bit low after staying out late (by my standard) on Saturday night and up early Sunday morning. An early to bed and early to rise type, my friends often kid me in the evening. “What’s your gauge?” they ask. If it’s past 9 PM, then the gauge is likely inching closer to empty. My dad is a gifted nap taker, I have the gift of falling asleep before my head hits the pillow. However, I also suffer from sleep apnea, so if I opt out of using the CPAP, I don’t usually get restful sleep. Last night, though, when I got home at 10 I walked straight from the front door to my bed. In my 1000 square foot condo, it’s a short trip. By 10:01 there were large Zzzzzzzzs over my head.

The loud boom of something hitting my front door, followed by the bang of the door opening suddenly, woke me suddenly from my revelry. I heard loud clumps from tennis shoes stomping on the front hallway floor, a duffle bag thrown into the living room. Instead of panicking, afraid that the police had mistaken me for a drug dealer, I simply pulled the covers back.

“Welcome home” I pronounced sleepily.

My son had arrived home from college, unannounced, as is his habit. I was expecting him tomorrow, but he decided he would rather finish up the semester from home. It was OK. Except for some Christmas wrapping paraphernalia littering his bed, the house was ready for the invasion. On top of that, I have today and tomorrow scheduled as vacation days. I don’t take a lot of vacation time. I rolled out of bed, half awake, pulled on some shorts and a tee shirt, greeted my boy. I cleared the Christmas cheer off of his bed as he ventured back outside to bring in the rest of his stuff, grabbed my laptop and a few files from the desk in his room. When he returned, I caught up a little with him, then told him I would see him in the morning as I shuffled back to my room. I closed the double doors to my bedroom behind me, something I will have to get used to doing for the next few weeks, the isolation necessary if I am going to get a proper night’s sleep.

He’s home. His routine is different than the haphazard childish chaos that existed just a few short years ago. This morning, he emerged from his bedroom, plopped down on the couch next to me, MacBook in hand. I watched him check emails, a large Yeti filled with strong coffee in one hand, then start prep for the online final exam he had to take in a few hours. The emails were correspondence for the internships he is considering, even though he has accepted an internship with the company I work for. The kid is networking like crazy and it’s intriguing to observe him at work. I am proud of him. In the three years since he graduated from high school, he has made huge strides with the motivation he has for work and school. Barely able to make the grades in high school, he is flourishing as a college student, even making the dean’s list last semester. I am impressed with the confidence I see as he talks to people, even as he talks to me.

It’s refreshing. Just a few short years ago, he was a confused boy, a bit messed up from the separation and divorce he had to deal with during his senior year of high school. The boy has become the man he needed to become. Even better, our relationship has become a relationship, with respect. If you asked me a few years ago if that was possible, I would have laughed at you. Now, he calls me, asks me how I am doing, seeks me out. We sit and talk, spend time together. Last summer, we were the tennis doubles team that everyone in our condo association league feared.

So, instead of dreading my son living with me, I enjoy it…. as long as it’s temporary! Frankly, I like living by myself, enjoy my own routine and neat, tidy home. But it’s OK to have my peaceful, comfort zone existence interrupted by my son. He’s getting used to me, as well, comfortable living with me now. We both have had to adjust.

One more note — tomorrow I get to meet my daughter’s new boyfriend. I don’t need to have a loaded shotgun ready or bring out a knife to sharpen while I am talking to him. The intro will be via video messenger. My daughter lives in another country (Turkey), thus the video. She is excited for me to meet him, a sign of how different this boy is than the ones the preceded. When I talked to her recently, it was really obvious that she has the M word in mind, even strongly hinted that to me. Like my son, my relationship with my daughter has matured, and she is confiding in me about this boy. Introducing me to previous boyfriends was a fearsome task, which I earned over the years. To see her eager to introduce him to me is also refreshing. I am looking forward to it. I will roll out of bed at 6:30 tomorrow morning, share my coffee time as I talk to them both.

This stage of fatherhood is good. I like it. After the divorce, I was afraid that my relationship with my children would be strained, possibly permanently damaged from what I feared as them considering me the bad guy. Kids are resilient, I know, something I was told by my friends. They will come around, my friends told me, as I am their father and have been a good one for them. When I see my kids coming around, I sense myself escaping from that big hole that I felt like I was sitting in. It feels good.

Christmas looks all right, even as the pandemic threatens to put a blanket on everything. I’m smiling.

Git’r Done

Summer to Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer. It happens seemingly in the blink of an eye, at least the Summer to Winter part of it. The Winter part lasts FOREVER.

I like to show off the view from my balcony, the greenery that greets me during that blink of an eye. When the greenery and foliage is gone, I get what the picture on the right shows — a view of the berm and the privacy fence that sits at the top of the berm. My balcony also faces an old, section 9 apartment complex. Hidden by the leaves during the summer months, the apartments loom above the fence, hogging my horizon view. What also appears is all the garbage that has blown over the privacy fence from the apartment dumpster.

There isn’t a little amount of trash. There is a lot of trash. I moved into my condo in the Spring of 2017 (yes, blink of an eye… time flies), when the foliage had already begun making the berm a beautiful place. That November, when all the leaves had dropped, I received my first exposure to the mess. During the summer, I had noticed there was garbage there, garbage that included empty bottles and cans, but the berm really isn’t negotiable because of the foliage during the green time of year. I had no idea of the extent of the mess.

Neighbors told me that they had tried to get the condo association to do something about the garbage from the apartments, but they said they had no jurisdiction. The property manager had the same issue. It was the city’s responsibility, they said. The condo board president confirmed when I asked. So I grabbed several construction sized garbage bags that I had left from when I moved from my house, filled them with the refuse that had collected over the summer, likely for a few years. It was disgusting, disheartening. One bag was filled with only bottles and cans, as well as several jugs over used motor oil that had been tossed over the fence. There were two slats missing from the fence, and one numbskull from the apartments shoved his lunch garbage through the fence while I was picking up the garbage!

I repeated the drill a few times that winter, as well as the Novembers that followed.. until this November. Why am I doing this? I asked myself. This shouldn’t be my responsibility. I pay an association fee of over $300 a month. So, at the encouragement of the former condo board president, I sent an email to the property manager, CC’d the condo board. I made two simple requests — please ask the apartment manager to correct the issue with the garbage coming over the fence from the apartment dumpsters, an obvious code violation, and have the garbage on our berm picked up. That email was sent a little over two weeks ago, on a Wednesday.

The property manager did not respond to or acknowledge my email at all. I waited two days, followed up with another email to the property manager and asked for confirmation that my email had been received. I received a one sentence response Friday afternoon, a few hours later,advising my email had been forwarded to ‘the manager’. Is the manager the apartment manager? I asked that question and did not get a response.

Monday came and went with no response. Tuesday afternoon and I had not received a response from the property manager, so I sent a message to the city and asked how to report a possible code violation at the apartments. They responded the next morning with the phone number to call, as well a link to the city website where the complaint document could be filled out. The city also thanked me for contacting them, told me that the chief enforcement officer had been notified. Wednesday morning, during my work break, I sent a follow up email to the property manager with the information the city had provided. I also asked that they would acknowledge my email, let me know if action was going to be taken.

Crickets. No response. Wednesday evening, I took the avenue that is a bit cowardly, but I know can be effective. I posted on the condo FB page the pictures I had taken of the mess and the apartment dumpsters, asked my fellow residents to support my efforts to get something done by sending emails to our property manager. The current condo board responded to the post, said that she was sorry that I had not received a response and that she had asked the property manager to respond to me. She also indicated that she didn’t like that I had contacted the property manager, told me that I needed to be patient because the property manager had been working on my request since it had been received. I had to grit my teeth lest I say something I would regret. It’s no fun being lied to and equally distasteful to be talked down to.

I succeeded (mostly) in limiting my response, but I did make sure that the condo president knew that Thursday morning finished with no response at all from the property manager. I let her know that I would send one more follow up email, but would start calling the property manager if no response was received. It had been a week with no response besides ‘your request has been forwarded to a manager’.

I finally received a response Friday morning — two sentences that informed me the property manager had contacted the city and an officer would be paying the apartment a visit. The document for the code violation had been filed with the city. I thanked the property manager and asked her to keep me informed.

Friday afternoon, I heard the dumpsters being pushed back into the garbage corrals on the other side of the fence.

Monday morning, I sent an email to the property manager, thanked her for her efforts and asked what was going to be done about the garbage on the berm, on our property. She had avoided answering that request. I didn’t say that, but I did say that I would pick up the garbage that afternoon, if it wasn’t going to be done. It was supposed to snow Monday night (and it did) and rain the rest of the week. She responded immediately, said someone would be out to remove the garbage.

Late Tuesday morning, I watched a guy traipse into the little woods on the berm. It was raining and traces of the morning snow were still on the berm. He was carrying a pole to pick up the garbage and had several garbage bags. He emerged with one garbage bag, stuffed full. I watched as he picked the burrs off of his clothing, tied up the bag, then went in with another bag. When he was done, he had completely filled three large garbage bags.

I finished with a follow up email, thanked the property manager for getting the garbage issue resolved, as well as for the improved communication. I asked her if she wanted me to contact the city the next time the garbage becomes a problem — nothing had really been done to prevent it from happening again. She thanked me, told me it was OK if I contacted her instead of the city.

I feel like a persistent pain in the neck, but I had to be persistent in order to get something done. It wasn’t easy. Emails had to be written during work breaks and I don’t get many breaks, as I have a very busy job. This week, I took some time off, so finishing up was easier.

Contrary to what it may seem, I really don’t want to be involved with the politics and drama involved with living in a condo community. However, I am not one to sit on my hands and complain that nothing is getting done. I do something about it!

Here are some of the pictures I sent our property manager. They really don’t show what a mess the berm was.